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December Disasters and Other Gifts

tapeThis year was going to be the one when I finally did the holidays right. I was going to be both pragmatic and intuitive, jolly and serene, organized and free-flowing, and full of holiday joy.

Two words: face plant.

If you happen to be in a counseling profession (life coaching, social work, parenthood, cocaine sales) you know that December is not so much a month as a recursive disease, like malaria. It makes humans jumpy, gloomy, and fussy. This year, just when I thought I was immune, I had a grand mal attack of the Decembers.

To those who talked me down from various neurotic ledges: I thank you. To those who taught me to play calming cellphone games: I owe you. To those who received a roll of tape from the post office as your gift from me: Please know that somewhere in my house is a beautiful, thoughtful gift I bought for you in October, then carefully hid. From myself.

At this writing, I’m skidding into 2014 with my face still firmly planted where my feet should be. And that’s okay. It reminds me that every time I try to meet exorbitant expectations and become a fantasy version of myself that has never actually existed, I experience wipeouts of epic proportions.

I’m left with little choice but to watch the devastation from my heart, which has no idea what December means to my mind. Dropping language and coming home to the moment, I see immediately what I hide from myself every December (and it’s not just your present). I see that every day is a holy day. I see that celebrating, generosity, and gratitude are simple states of being, not unattainable ideals. Every out-breath recalls miracles, the presence of the divine in stables and candle flames. Every in-breath is a delicious feast, an offering, a gift.

I guess it’s worth losing some face to remember that.

Riding the Wave ~ Surf’s Up!

Before I even met O Magazine‘s Editor-in-Chief, Susan Casey, I had a hunch she was on the Team.  (If I haven’t explained this to you already, the “Team” is my word for the people whose unspoken mission is to help heal the world.  You would not be reading this if you aren’t on it.)  What other explanation could there be for a women’s magazine editor writing a book on sharks?  (The Devil’s Teeth – fascinating read. Pick it up!)  When I met Susan, ostensibly to discuss my column, all I remember talking about was the personalities of individual sharks and how in the world we may be able to save the oceans.

This winter, Susan wrote another book called The Wave.  It describes the physics of abnormally large “rogue waves,” suggests theories about how they occur, and tells stories of extreme surfers who travel the globe searching for monster waves where they can play.

As I read Susan’s book, I continually felt a tickle of electricity along my spine because I have been sensing a kind of wave rising around all of us for some time now.  It is a wave of transformation, a wave of innovation, a wave of compassion.

A few days ago, for reasons I cannot remember, I ended up watching video footage of the recent tsunami hitting Sendai, Japan.  I don’t generally sit around watching YouTube videos, but I was abnormally fascinated by this one.  I watched it, maybe five times, all the way through.  If you watch this video, please watch it all the way to the end.  The sheer mind numbing scale of the power of that wave must be seen to be believed.  If you’d like, I invite you to take a minute to click here, watch it now, then meet me back here ~ ~ ~

~ ~ ~ Welcome back!  Wow, huh?  There aren’t words to describe this event.

I’m not sure what happened to my computer, but after I had watched the video repeatedly, it somehow switched to a different website.  What I saw here was one of the surfers Susan Casey describes in The Wave.  It’s professional surfer, Mike Parsons, catching a swell that has just the right physics to be a monster.  Please click here and watch this all the way through as well. ~ ~ ~

~ ~ ~ Wow, huh?  I am terrified by any wave over two feet tall, yet this man will remember his experience on the monster wave with joy and awe for the rest of his life.

After alternating between these two videos for most of a day, it suddenly occurred to me why I found them so compelling.  The wave of energy that we’ve all felt – many of us for years – is coming ashore.  It is building height and power, and if you expect to hide out in any concrete structure, you are making a big mistake.  All the rules are changing.  The old institutions and patterns of life that our social selves have been trained to believe in are being uprooted and will soon float away.  This is only a crisis if we cling to them.

The way to be safe – more than safe, joyful and delighted – is to climb on board the smallest, lightest, most nimble platform you can find.  For some of us, that’s an entrepreneurial business.  For others it’s knowing a trade – like horse whispering or life coaching – that will make sense of the wild new world for the people we hope to serve.

I don’t know what your surf board looks like, but I know you own one.  It’s built into your soul, and that is the only place you’ll ever find it.  I invite you to watch these videos again, to feel for the sense of power rising beneath you, to let go of grasping or clinging, and to paddle out for the joyful ride of your life.  Surfs up, people, it’s time!

~ Martha

After publication of this article, a reader commented that this post makes light of a disaster that destroyed life and property at a catastrophic level.  Just to be clear, I want to say that my coaching focus has included things like genocide survivors, homeless addicts, people who are dying, and others in calamitous situations.  I didn’t mean to make light of the tsunami; I meant to make heavy the changes we are seeing all around us.  Last week I met a man who has been through three wars, and has seen people die violently.  “Still,” he said, “there was a serenity that I could access.”  He called this “surfing the mystery.”  I had barely met him and certainly not told him my “surfer” analogy.  It was one of those synchronistic statements that makes me believe even those who face truly monstrous situations can find lightness, balance, and peace.

Your Position From the Starting Blocks

We all know that change is occurring more rapidly and dramatically today than it ever has in history.  This may be either thrilling or terrifying, depending on the day and how ready we are at any moment to go along with dramatic transformations.  For many months, I’ve had the feeling that many of us humans have been milling around like athletes waiting for a marathon to begin.  Recently, it feels to me as though we’re all being told to take our position in the starting blocks.

I’m not sure exactly what this means, only that it feels tremendously exciting and somewhat alarming at the same time.  I’ve noticed two categories of reaction in myself and the people I know:  Some highly evolved individuals are positioning themselves happily and easily for some exciting unknown transformation; others are kicking, screaming and resisting like race horses who have decided at the last minute that the whole event is just too strange and frightening to tolerate. 

This translates into divided extremes of emotion.  There seems to be no middle ground; either life feels incredibly joyful and exciting or absolutely horrid.  I, myself, alternate between these two extremes.  When I am completely in line with my purpose and following my inner compass, I feel almost intoxicated with joy.  When I am resisting in some way, I feel like week old road kill.  It seems that the biggest difference lies in my ability to relax.  There was once a time when hard work and intense willpower moved me effectively toward my goals and filled me with enthusiasm.  Nowadays, hard work and willpower feel horrible, even when I can muster them, and prove entirely ineffective.  On the other hand, when I give up struggling and acknowledge that I have zero control and no more energy, things suddenly begin to work in my favor, as if by magic. 

I watched this process very intently as my friend Jayne passed away, which as you probably know, was simply a change of address as far as I’m concerned.  People talk about how courageously people fight their illnesses, and Jayne fought ferociously, but the effect of her struggle was horrific.  A few days before her death, when she completely stopped struggling, it opened a door to peaceful and joyful transformation that uplifted Jayne and everyone around her.  Watching the grieving process of her son Joey, who has Down syndrome, was another astonishing example of the power inherent in refusing to struggle.  Joey flows in and out of sadness with absolutely no resistance, and as a result, the pain of this time has been intermittent, alternating with periods of true and enormous happiness.

For anything new to be born, the existing arrangement of particles and situations must die.  Struggling to survive is laudable and natural.  I believe the “deaths” we experience as we take our positions for a new phase of history are benevolent and necessary, and are, therefore, best greeted with relaxed acceptance.  This is a wild time to be alive.  If you feel yourself being moved into position, you might justifiably feel terrified.  My advice to you this month:  Stop struggling.  Relax.  The signal to run is coming.